“It was Friday. We had been fasting but my nephew was mentally handicapped. We went out to the store – our store – to get him some biscuits to eat. That’s when we saw them.”
“We saw a large crowd coming towards us, armed with sticks and weapons. We didn’t even get the biscuits, we just ran home and told everyone, ‘Run! There’s a huge crowd coming’.”
These are the words of Mehraj, a survivor of the 2002 Gujarat riots, recalling the events of that fateful day. The horror in her voice is one shared by all the victims of the riots The Wire spoke to.
Today, 20 years since the riots in Gujarat, the victims’ wounds are still fresh. Some are still suffering from the physical injuries inflicted upon them; all of them still feel the mental scars. Entire Muslim neighbourhoods were razed to the ground by angry mobs. One lakh individuals had to be housed in relief camps after the week-long riots raged across the state.
Official figures put the death toll at around 1,000, although independent estimates put them well above 2,000.
The Wire’s Arfa Khanum Sherwani travels to Juhapur in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad, where many Muslim families displaced by the riots now reside, to hear their accounts of the violence and learn why it was an incident they can never forget.